THE BLOG

Re-Igniting America's Solar Impulse

05/21/2013 06:01 pm ET | Updated Jul 21, 2013
  • Tom Weis President, Climate Crisis Solutions

First came the Wright Brothers. Then it was Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis. In 1990, Eric Raymond made aviation history to much less fanfare with the first solar airplane crossing of the United States. Now it is Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg making history by flying across America in SOLAR IMPULSE, a 100 percent solar-powered plane that collects enough energy during the day to fly through the night on battery power alone.

Their amazing airplane has the wingspan of a jumbo jet, yet weighs no more than a typical car. Powered solely by the sun, SOLAR IMPULSE flies at an average speed of 43 mph, using four propeller engines powered by nearly 12,000 solar cells attached to its outstretched wings.

The two daring pilots writing this next chapter in aviation history are aeronaut Bertrand Piccard, who made the first non-stop around-the-world balloon flight, and fighter pilot and entrepreneur André Borschberg, who directs construction of the aircraft and prepares flight missions. Their epic quest to fly around the world in 2015 with zero fuel or pollution is challenging current assumptions about our fossil fuel-dependent lifestyles and redefining the limits of what is truly possible. If you missed the thrilling first leg of Bertrand piloting SOLAR IMPULSE from San Francisco to Phoenix, you'll have another chance to watch the flight LIVE as André pilots the second leg from Phoenix to Dallas on Wednesday, May 22, beginning at 4:45 a.m. (MST).

How ironic that SOLAR IMPULSE will soon be flying over the active construction zone of Obama's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in Texas. As this Swiss-built zero-fuel, zero-pollution wonder flies above, carving a path to the future, America's political establishment wallows in the tar pits of the dinosaur economy below, stuck in the past. It's hard to imagine a more stark contrast.

André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard are clearly having the time of their lives innovating a brighter future for all of us. One need look no further than the smiles on their faces and the sparkle in their eyes to see what being part of a generational mission looks like. There was a time, not so long ago, when dreaming big dreams was something America prided itself on. We did, after all, land an astronaut on the moon. We also used to be the world's solar and wind energy pioneers. Will the inspiring sight of SOLAR IMPULSE flying across our spacious skies, free and independent from fossil fuels, be the spark that finally re-ignites America's solar impulse?